There’s no way this is the first collection of music the soul behind Tallboy has made. However, it feels clear that this is the first time their heart has been poured out so completely in seven songs. “Life is Terrible and Everyone is Insane“, the debut EP from Tallboy, was released the day after this past Christmas, and rides the energy of inner conflict.
Wasting no time, the first track “Invisible Hand” jumps right in to a crashing of raucous drums and textural, bright guitars.. Lyrics like: “best years wasted on a climb to nothing” introduce this constant feeling of being frustrated with growth and how it can’t be fought. It seems Tallboy is grappling with growing jaded but truly doesn’t want to be. The track gives off a special sense of unity, as if every instrument is being played with the same level of emotional intensity. The overarching sense of urgency that winds through the EP is combated by a voice which contains the perfect mix of intention and apathy.
The pace of the EP stays poised for activity for the next few tracks, verging on monotonous, but vibrant enough to keep listeners upbeat. “Sticks & Stones” harps on regret: “every past mistake still takes up space / and swallows every look that runs across your face.” It features the vocals lower in the mix, a tradition that vocalists like Michael Stipe made popular to increase mystique and heighten relatability.
“Drug Store Promenade” harkens back to the fast-paced crossroads of alternative/indie rock and the punk/emo influence at its height around 2010. The song feels fun: a basement crowd would probably even take their hands out of their pockets for this one. The subject matter skirts around something dark, but there is such light to the urgency that it feels manageable. It ends in a distorted guitar mess-around that brings the frenetic punk attitude to a calm.
Tallboy takes a lot of poetic liberties with the lyricism, which counters the repetition found in the instrumentals. There is clear emotion in the imagery suggested, like “my favorite enemy plays a slow guitar, slung low / the pills I take don’t let him hit too hard” on Bad Chemicals/Interlude. Read at an open mic, these full-blown open-hearted poems could relay some dark intensity, but the driving guitars, lush with reverb, make sure to provide a balance.
“Expense Report” comes as a respite from the high energy – teasing Beach Boys falsetto, maybe as an active interaction with younger versions of Tallboy’s self. This track feels the most shoegaze-y, as curling waves of delayed guitar plucking illustrate the emotional sit-down. A rolling snare line keeps the beat as more and more guitar and vocal loops are added, building the perfect environment for wallowing in nostalgia. While most of the other tracks are around two minutes long, Expense Report is nearly six minutes. It does not have the same kind of ‘punk’ energy the others songs flirt around.
In a very Jeff Tweedy-esque turnaround, “Life is Terrible and Everyone is Insane” ends with a very sweet and tender acoustic ballad. While a little out of place, it feels like an emotional patch-up after the energetic contemplation of the previous six songs. Ending your album or EP with a dramatic, dynamic track is often a praised technique, a calming serenade after a riotous release somehow feels very effective.
Overall, the EP has a strong emotional energy, and hints at brighter horizons. If you see Tallboy around, please offer a hug on our behalf.
- Self-deprecating lyricism out the wazoo
- Offers many uses, including dancing and crying
- Creates tangible nostalgia
- Predictable organization of songs
- Uneven mixing from track to track